By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Are you feeling tired? Maybe a little out of it? Eating too much while staying home?

Stressful times like these can have a big impact on our bodies, so what’s happening physically? Good Question.

“We’re still sorting through the uncertainty,” said Dr. Craig Sawchuk, a psychologist at the Mayo Clinic.

He says when humans face a stressor, the fight-or-flight response kicks in. Chemicals are released that increase heart rate and mobilize energy to get a person focused and on alert.

“It’s really only designed to last for a short time,” Dr. Sawchuck said. “Having the stress response go on for a long period of time can actually have some wear and tear on us.”

It can manifest in muscle tension, high blood pressure or digestive issues caused by an increase in serotonin.

Those chemical changes can also cause disruption in sleep, beyond the drastic changes to people’s routines.

“Part of it is being human,” he said.

While people are staying at home, they might not use as much energy by being more sedentary. They might be napping more or suffering from insomnia due to anxiety or fear. These sleep changes can create a bad cycle when it comes to proper rest.

And, during people’s waking hours, their brains are processing so much new information that’s out of their normal routine. Even thinking about small things on Zoom calls – like will my kids interrupt me – takes extra energy.

“Our thoughts, our emotions, our physical selves, they all draw on that energy, so we can feel physically fried, emotionally friend and mentally or cognitively fried as well,” Dr. Sawchuk said.

As for why we’re eating more? Part of it could be snacking more because people are at home more.

“Look at this cultural aspect, food is something that makes us feel good, it’s something we enjoy,” Dr. Sawchuk said. “And at what point does it become too much of a good thing.”

Dr. Sawchuk says the good thing about humans and change is that humans are good at adapting. For some, who are experiencing loss or financial pain or unsafe living conditions, that resiliency is much harder.

“I always try to think that we are six weeks closer to getting to the other side of this,” he said.

Heather Brown

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